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May 20, 2019

Monday briefing I 'Dirty money' could reach Farage party, Brown says

Martin Farrer


Top story: Brexit party donations risk ‘undermining democracy’

Good morning briefers. I’m Martin Farrer and here are the top stories this morning.
Gordon Brown has called for an investigation into the funding of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party over concerns that its financial structure could lead to foreign interference in British elections. With Brexit well ahead of all the other parties in polling before Thursday’s European elections, the former prime minister has written to the Electoral Commission calling on it to examine whether the party takes enough precautions to stop donations of “dirty money”. In a speech in Glasgow today, Brown will say that the Brexit party’s no-questions-asked donations model risks undermining democracy with potentially “under-the-counter and underhand campaign finance”. Our reporter Paul Lewis has been on the road with Farage and he reports on the how the arch-Brexiter has eschewed policies in favour of a persistent message pitting politicians against the people.
As the Tories head for a calamitous defeat at the ballot box, Theresa May is preparing what she calls a “bold offer” in a final effort to convince MPs to vote for her Brexit withdrawal agreement bill (WAB). The proposals could include concessions on workers’ rights, the environment and fresh assurances for the Democratic Unionists. But John Harris reckons that the Tories will ignore their remain voters at their peril.

Huawei blocked – Google has reportedly suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those available via open-source licensing. The move, reported by Reuters, could cripple Huawei’s smartphone business outside China because it would mean that users would not be able to receive updates to Google’s Android operating system. It further escalates the standoff between the US and China over trade and technology issues and follows the Trump administration’s decision to add Huawei to a trade blacklist. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday night, Donald Trump claimed that his policy of imposing tariffs on Chinese goods was already bearing fruit by encouraging companies to move manufacturing to other countries. It also emerged overnight that a US warship sailed close to waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Poor show – Ministers have been accused by Human Rights Watch of ignoring evidence of a “stark deterioration” in the living standards of Britain’s poorest people. The watchdog says the government has breached its international duty to keep people from hunger by pursuing “cruel and harmful polices” with no regard for the impact on children living in poverty. In a 115-page report based on a study of poverty in Hull, Cambridgeshire and Oxford, the NGO cites an increased use of food banks and reports from schools about pupils being too hungry to concentrate.

‘Never threaten the US’ – Donald Trump has issued one of his starkest warnings yet to Iran by suggesting in a tweet that if the Islamic republic attacks American interests, it will be destroyed. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” the US president tweeted last night. It follows rising tensions between the two countries following Trump’s decision to impose fresh sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. Earlier on Sunday an Iranian military chief dismissed the threat of war by saying that although Iran is ready to fight, the US is “afraid of war” and didn’t “have the will for it”.

Train strain – Rail passengers are preparing for widespread disruption from new timetables today as figures show that last year’s changes saw the worst level of delays and cancellations ever recorded. An estimated 4 million hours were lost to passengers in 2018 thanks to major delays, with 80 trains every day on average held for half an hour or more, according to a study by Which? The north-west and south-east of England were worst hit but rail bosses are hoping that they have learned the lesson of last year when the new timetables come into force today. The number of changes are about one-third of the number that came into force last May.

End Game – After eight seasons, high drama, intrigue, countless grisly deaths, incest and fire-breathing dragons, Game of Thrones has finally ended and winter really has come for its millions of fans across the world. If you’re planning to watch the final episode, don’t worry, the briefing is a spoiler-free zone. But if you’ve already watched or don’t care either way, you can read Lucy Mangan’s review of the epic finale, find out how viewers reacted and relive the excitement with our blog of the programme here.

Today in Focus podcast: Mayday! how thousands of people are stranded at sea

More than 4,000 people are believed to be stranded on abandoned boats in seas and oceans across the world. When companies run in to financial trouble they can leave whole crews drifting at sea with no visas, wages or supplies. Karen McVeigh and Andy Bowerman tell the story of one vessel adrift off the coast of UAE. Plus, Rupert Neate on the tax breaks attracting the super-rich to Italy

Lunchtime read: Rose Garnett, the film industry’s favourite

Few people outside the film industry have heard of Rose Garnett, but the head of BBC Films is one of the most influential people in British film-making with a CV that boasts hits such as Room, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Favourite. They were all overseen by Garnett when she was at Film4 where her success led to her being poached by the corporation. In a rare interview, she tells Catherine Shoard about the “incredible” entitlement bestowed on film-makers, her bucolic childhood and how kicking heroin changed her life. While Garnett has an under-the-radar style, luminaries of the film world are queuing up to pay tribute to her, including lifelong friend Rachel Weisz, director Andrea Arnold and Steve McQueen, who says: “She’s my kind of woman. I wouldn’t bother talking if she wasn’t so fantastic.”

Sport

Brooks Koepka won the US PGA Championship – his fourth major – by two shots from Dustin Johnson despite making five bogeys on the back nine at Bethpage in New York. England’s cricketers will yomp into the World Cup with chests puffed out and optimism aplenty after a 54-run win over Pakistan at Headingley wrapped up a convincing 4-0 series victory. Liam Dawson is expected to enter the debate over England’s squad when the selectors and the captain, Eoin Morgan, convene on Monday. Lucy Bronze has revealed she told her distraught England teammate Toni Duggan they will “win the World Cup together instead” this summer following Lyon’s 4-1 Champions League final dismantling of Barcelona. Rafael Nadal won his 34th Masters 1000 title – a record – with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open. And Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has revealed she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming the country’s first openly gay athlete.

Business

The trade standoff between the US and China continues to cast a shadow over financial markets but Asia-Pacific stocks recovered some ground overnight after last week’s battering in the wake of the Huawei decision. They were helped by a 1.4% rise in Australian shares thanks to the centre-right’s surprise election win on Saturday. Closer to home, unions are lobbying investors to force Amazon into improving working conditions. The FTSE100 is set to open flat. The pound is on $1.273 and €1.141.

The papers

It’s the usual varied offering of stories for a Monday morning. The Guardian leads with a Human Rights Watch report: “UK ‘breaching human rights duty by ignoring children in hunger’”, while the Mail goes for a call on behalf of families affected by contaminated blood scandal: “Give us justice before it’s too late”. The Mirror reports on the conditions for migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar: “82p-an-hour World Cup shame” and the i has: “Parents’ fury at NHS failure to prescribe ‘life-saving’ cannabis”.
Guardian front page, Monday 20 May 2019
Photograph: The Guardian
There is an espionage theme to some front pages. The Times says: “MoD policy lets Britain break laws on torture”, the Telegraph has: “UK spies given lurid dossier on Trump” and the FT reports: “Spy chiefs warn US companies on risks of doing business with China.”

The Express splashes with “Concern at young royals’ rivalry”, about supposed “oneupmanship” between the Sussexes and the Cambridges while the Sun runs a story about the Duchess of Sussex messaging an X-Factor singer months before meeting Prince Harry: “Meg’s factor.”

Source: The Guardian

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